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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Jan 30;104(5):1534-9. Epub 2007 Jan 22.

Ligand configurational entropy and protein binding.

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  • 1Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


The restriction of a small molecule's motion on binding to a protein causes a loss of configurational entropy, and thus a penalty in binding affinity. Some energy models used in computer-aided ligand design neglect this entropic penalty, whereas others account for it based on an expected drop in the number of accessible rotamers upon binding. However, the validity of the physical assumptions underlying the various approaches is largely unexamined. The present study addresses this issue by using Mining Minima calculations to analyze the association of amprenavir with HIV protease. The computed loss in ligand configurational entropy is large, contributing approximately 25 kcal/mol (4.184 kJ/kcal) to DeltaG degrees. Most of this loss results from narrower energy wells in the bound state, rather than a drop in the number of accessible rotamers. Coupling among rotation/translation and internal degrees of freedom complicates the decomposition of the entropy change into additive terms. The results highlight the potential to gain affinity by designing conformationally restricted ligands and have implications for the formulation of energy models for ligand scoring.

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